Screamin’ Cyn Cyn And The Pons, False, Half-Stack Sessions, William Elliott Whitmore, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY JUNE 22
Faun Fables, Paul Fonfara, Stephanie Rearick. Frequency, 8:30 p.m.
Oakland folk duo Faun Fables create a world of pastoral simplicity and populate it with a vigorous, theatrical approach to performance. Multi-instrumentalists Dawn McCarthy and Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Idiot Flesh) use strings, percussion, vocal harmonies, and woodwinds in a blend of various folk musics, from the sounds of Appalachia to earlier European folk styles. On last year’s Born Of The Sun, they give their folk influences a bit of a neo-psychedelic twist, bringing an air of rustic elegance to standout tracks like “YDUN.” The result is the sonic representation of an almost classical, almost cinematic, familiar-yet-fantasy universe. This world, while airy and ethereal, evokes a grounding sense of emotion and mystical spirituality. Joining Faun Fables is the avant-folk concoction of Paul Fonfara (Painted Saints) and Madison singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Stephanie Rearick. —Emili Earhart
Ken Vandermark & Nate Wooley. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
In his return to Madison, Chicago woodwind explorer Ken Vandermark is joined by New York trumpeter and improvisor Nate Wooley for a night of adventurous solo and collaborative performance. While performing with a roster of innovative musicians such as John Zorn and Fred Frith, Wooley has developed a reputation for his revolutionary style of aggressive extended technique. Both Wooley and Vandermark tend to break the barrier between “traditional” playing and extended performance, with an emphasis on utilizing the entirety of the instrument—resulting in expressive, colorful pieces. On their collaborative track “Another Lecture (For Walter Benjamin),” Wooley and Vandermark trade off between an acute unison and a free space populated with sudden spurts of isolated independence. Melodies weave in and out in an inventive manner, and new lines emerge and veer off into new territories. New sounds are exposed yet padded with refreshing, cadential motion. —Emili Earhart
False, Pigs Blood, Tubal Cain, Coordinated Suicides, No Question. Art In, 7 p.m.
Black metal rears its head in many forms, be it neofolk-tinged, yo-ho-ho Captain Hook-style, sketchily war-themed, depressively reverb-drenched, or that overtly polished and pretentious “high-art” take. What I love about 2015’s Untitled, the first and only full-length from Minneapolis-based black metal outfit False, is that it doesn’t sit comfortably within any of the aforementioned tropes. “Saturnalia,” the first of five unstable dirges, shifts gracefully between blast-beats coated in mysterious, speed-picked riffing and hovering growls, crawling doom passages, and punishing hardcore sections. Untitled’s gritty but digestible production style and sporadic doses of moody synth atmospheres (which are thankfully super tasteful and not overdone) really add some refreshing context, too. It’s worth noting that False have fully-titled 7-inch, Hunger, slated for release next month through Oshkosh-based metal imprint Gilead Media. —Joel Shanahan
Half-Stack Sessions Meeting 4. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 7:30 p.m. (free)
In a much-needed effort to normalize the involvement of women, LGBT, and non-binary folks in the local music and arts scene, Half-Stack Sessions (co-founded by four Madison musicians) has been holding a mix of public and invite-only events that attack the problem of sexism in the music world from a variety of angles. This event, hosted by local artist Jennifer Bastian, is centered around conversation and response to a zine Bastian created with responses to an anonymous survey of the local music community. The survey and zine spotlight personal experiences regarding safe spaces at venues, inclusion and exclusion in show booking, and ideas as to how to better the community. Half-Stack encourages attendees to come with not only questions and ideas, but an open mind—something crucial when involved in an artistic community, but something unfortunately quite difficult for a handful of men in town to stomach. This community meeting is open to all. After a discussion about the issues raised in the zine, the event will wrap up with music from Alej Perez of Madison band Miyha and Winnepeg band Mulligrub. —Emili Earhart
WellRed Comedy Tour. Comedy Club on State, 7 & 9:30 p.m.
There have been some interesting recent attempts to revise the perception of “the South,” from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Y’all Means ALL” buttons to surreal advocacy by way of Facebook pages like The Ghost Of Ol Dale Earnhardt. None have garnered quite as much viral cache as Trae Crowder’s “Liberal Redneck” YouTube channel. Crowder, of course, took the next logical step and inked a book deal. He then rounded up his friends Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester, forming a trio collectively drop buttered-biscuit knowledge on those above the Mason-Dixon last fall in the form of their book Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta The Dark. The three standup comedians have taken their show on the road to promote the book and hopefully change some people’s notions of what it means to be a redneck, at least until the next “Florida Man…” headline makes the rounds and undoes all their hard work. —Chris Lay
FRIDAY JUNE 23
Rooftop Cinema: Born In Flames. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 9:30 p.m.
A veritable smorgasbord of intersecting media narratives, Lizzie Borden’s 1983 feature Born In Flames takes place at a dystopian intersection of politics, class, race, gender, and art. The film concerns itself with the revolutionary plottings of the “Women’s Army” in the wake of an African American activist’s suspicious death in police captivity, with events boiling over before the credits roll. Summed up in Rooftop Cinema’s program notes as a “comic fantasy,” this overlooked indie gem is about as explosive as it is funny, and feels frighteningly prescient given our current administration’s feelings towards dissidents. —Chris Lay
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Beverly, Ablebody. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s eponymous 2009 debut album easily won me over. It was tastefully coated with lo-fi production, thoughtful lyrics, and deep nostalgia for golden-age shoegaze, 1980s college-pop, and the prettier side of early grunge. As the band, which is currently just vocalist-guitarist Kip Berman with a cast of hired hands, readies its upcoming fourth album The Echo Of Pleasure, its lead single “Anymore” suggests the project is becoming an overproduced, saccharine, and Muzak-ready take on its former self. Yeah, it’s just a single, but the watering down began with 2010’s Flood-produced and still-enjoyable Belong, and it now feels like all the edges have been trimmed. Gone are the clever production, the twisted lyrics of songs like “This Love Is Fucking Right,” and the charmingly understated vocal style Berman gave to the older tunes. But to be fair, plenty of great albums out there had disappointing lead singles, so let’s just see what happens. —Joel Shanahan
Madison’s Funniest Recording. Comedy Club On State, 8 & 10:30 p.m.
It’s easy to identify the levels of accomplishment for stand-up comedians in Madison: you start at the open-mics, eventually progress up to a feature spot at the Comedy Club on State on a Thursday, and after you stick the landing on a few of those maybe you get a whole weekend to yourself as a host. After that, the next brass ring to shoot for is a top spot in the Madison’s Funniest Comic competition. Once you do that, though, tradition dictates that you should probably move away to Chicago or some other place with a bigger scene because you are obviously too good for us and Madison doesn’t deserve good things anyway. Sometimes these impressively talented prodigal children return, though. In this case, Geoffrey Asmus (Winner of Madison’s Funniest Comic 2015), Toler Wolfe (Finalist 2014), Gena Gephart (Finalist 2014), Charlie Kojis (Winner 2016), and David Freeburg (“Real cool guy” [ed: citation needed]), have been lured back for two professionally-recorded Friday shows where they’ll flex 15-minute sets, the clips from which they will then use to get bigger and better gigs. Kojis has yet to move away, and Freeburg technically never placed in the competition. But otherwise the narrative holds true, and who should ever let the truth get in the way of a comedy lineup as stellar as this one? —Chris Lay
SATURDAY JUNE 24
Screamin’ Cyn-Cyn And The Pons, The Flavor That Kills, Paper Wasp. Frequency, 10 p.m.
There’s little I can say about Madison punk band Screamin’ Cyn-Cyn And The Pons that hasn’t already been said a lot since vocalist/keytar-wielder Shane O’Neill left Madison for New York City several years ago. We love them, we miss them, we’re glad that once or twice a year they regroup in a mighty burst of glitter and chest hair to play comically deranged but genuinely clever songs like “Set The Table” and “Cat Waco.” Their live sets—sweaty, theatrical, kitschy, and full of bizarrely sweet chemistry between O’Neill and guitarist-vocalist Cynthia Burnson—earned the band an avid local following when they were more of a regular thing. This show also will be the last for Paper Wasp, a solid and moody post-punk band featuring Pons drummer Steve Shah. Madison soul-rock band The Flavor That Kills (which includes Pons bassist Christian Burnson) recently added guitarist Bill Borowski, who’s played in a number of noteworthy Madison outfits over the years, including The United Sons Of Toil, The Arge, and Knuckel Drager. —Scott Gordon
Silver Ochre. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
The project Silver Ochre combines the voracious curiosity and perpetual-road-dog ethos of photographer/videographer Angela Villa and experimental keyboardist Thollem McDonas (whose collaborators have ranged from guitarist Nels Cline to Madison-based multi-instrumentalist Brian Grimm). During their travels across the country, the two have created footage and music that aims to open up big questions about life in America. They’re currently in the middle of a three-year project called “Who Are U.S.,” which poses the rather broad question of what the United States is. The project draws on the fractious political moment, and the duo even note on their website that “We, as a nation, are losing our sense of a shared reality.” The phase of the project performed here is called “Hyperspeed Overdrive,” and will find the duo exploring American identity through what they’ve dubbed a “rapid fire live audio/visual experience,” involving video from their cross-continental journeys and music spanning influences as diverse as gamelan and free jazz. —Scott Gordon
EMS, nothing natural, Kleptix. Art In, 8 p.m.
EMS is the solo synth-drone project of Portland-based musician Vern Avola. On her 2016 release Liebe Für Alle, Avola creates a slowly evolving sense of swampy elasticity. Bubbling within this wavering channel of loosely situated, particulate noise are steadily evolving lines of coherence. Avola’s music is bound by a certain clarity—both in melodic direction and timbral lucidity—permeating through the vague confines of the hazy, nebulous drone. Joining EMS here are two Madison-based acts. Nothing natural is the dark techno project of Ilana Bryne, whose recent track “Scorched” constructs a chilled, placid space supported by a shallow throb. Kleptix, the solo project of Troy Peterson, is best known for creating colorful, animated dance sets, but will be showcasing something a bit different at this Tone Madison-presented show. —Emili Earhart
SUNDAY JUNE 25
William Elliott Whitmore, Lou Shields. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Iowa singer/guitarist/banjo player William Elliott Whitmore earned himself a rock-solid spot among modern-day folk artists with an trilogy of albums released in his late 20’s—2003’s Hymns For The Hopeless, 2005’s Ashes To Dust, and 2006’s Song Of The Blackbird. On those records, his voice sounded incredibly weathered, but still tender and expressive, and against stark instrumental backdrops it created a feeling of someone finding some powerful shred of hope and humanity amid desolation. His last few albums, including 2015’s Radium Death, relish in opening things up a bit, with more generous arrangements, some group vocals, and a production touch that makes it all just a notch more accessible. The core of what made Whitmore special in the first place is still there on Radium Death, and at times laid bare on tracks like “Civilizations,” whose blues-structured verses (“Don’t mind me I’m bleeding now/ Don’t mind me I’m just bleeding now/ A hand from above cut out my heart somehow/ Don’t mind me I’m just bleeding now”) manage to come off as timeless and apocalyptic at once. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY JUNE 27
Midwaste, Blank, Noxroy. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
The Madison/Milwaukee duo Midwaste uses an ever-evolving configuration of samples, guitars, synths, and delay pedals to create planetarium-worthy experimental music. Epiphany Compton uses cassette samples of dialogue and ambient sound to create a sense of narrative and pacing, while Spencer Bible creates dense, shimmering layers of swelling guitar and synth. Midwaste’s live performances help to demonstrate that even music with a rather abstract approach can create a powerful emotional connection. The duo put out two releases in 2016, the EP As Relayed and a limited CD called Eleanora/Exit. They play here as they work on a new record. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY JUNE 28
Forward: Anger Into Action. Central Library, 7 p.m. (free)
Well before a Madison Police Department officer killed unarmed, biracial Madison resident Tony Robinson in March 2015, a crew of Wisconsin-based and -raised filmmakers—Joseph Brown, Sheba McCants, Jamie Quam, and Jonathon Leslie-Quam—were beginning to examine racial disparities and tensions in Madison. In the time since, they’ve continued to chronicle the efforts of activists trying to push Madison to have a real conversation about race and accept the need for substantial chance. Their documentary, Forward: Anger Into Action, still hasn’t officially been released, but at this event the filmmakers will share the current cut of the film and hold an in-person feedback discussion with audience members. —Scott Gordon